A desperate battle is being waged to stop donkeys being wiped out in Africa, as a result of supplying donkey skins to the insatiable Chinese to be used in phony ejiao “medicines”.
According to the UK Donkey Sanctuary’s report “Under the Skin”, China demands a massive 10 million donkey skins every year. Yet there are only 44 million donkeys in the world. This means that within the next four years, donkeys could be extinct.
The global purchase of donkeys and donkey skins is a savage operation run by organized Chinese syndicates who show no mercy for animals, or people that get in their way. They often descend on rural villages and steal donkeys, or force owners to sell at giveaway prices, then slaughter the animals in makeshift abattoirs.
In Kenya, we exposed a situation at a slaughterhouse where 2000 donkeys a month are killed for their skins, which are legally exported to China. We are monitoring the situation.
At an auction in South Africa, Jonno Sherwin out-bid Chinese buyers who wanted to kill 236 donkeys and 30 horses for their skins. Jonno’s action saved the donkeys, but then he faced the challenge of caring for them Network for Animals stepped in to help him with donkey food and medical care, while he finds loving homes for the animals.
In Zimbabwe, we work with MARES, a donkey sanctuary in Bulawayo that combats cruelty, rescues donkeys and fights to end the donkey skin trade. Zimbabwe is a bankrupt state with so very few medicines available for animals and no money to buy them with. We have just donated enough medicines to last the sanctuary six months.
Hideous donkey abuse in Greece
On the Greek island of Santorini, we helped expose horrific cruelty inflicted on donkeys every day in the peak of the summer. Donkeys and mules are forced to carry tourists up and down a 1300-foot high cliff all day in the baking sun without shade, food or water.
Donkey owners say if they provided food, the donkeys would defecate and soil the path, upsetting tourists.
Some donkeys have open wounds, others have crude wire muzzles over their mouths to prevent them from eating. The donkeys’ working hours are supposed to be regulated but the authorities have done nothing because of the money donkey-owners (called “muleteers”) rake in from visitors.
In 2018, the municipal authorities promised to improve working conditions for the donkeys by providing drinking troughs at points on the cliff path. The Greek government issued an instruction that no donkey should carry a person weighing more than 80 kilos (176 pounds) – still far too heavy. The local authorities did not provide water and the weight regulation is routinely flouted.
When our team visited the island again in July 2019, they were attacked and whipped by the donkey owners. The police did nothing, saying they were on lunch.
We support the small Santorini Animal Welfare Association (SAWA) animal shelter on the island which rescues and cares for 14 old donkeys who will live out their final years in peace at her sanctuary. She also lobbies local authorities to act against the cruelty inflicted on donkeys. But she is so hated by some muleteers that she dares not go into the town.
We will continue to press for a long-term solution to the problem of donkey exploitation on Santorini.